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The Hadeda and the Fish Eagle-An African Short story about Life

Updated on September 2, 2017

Life is a battle as we try to find our niche in the world. It is no different in the Avian and Animal world.

A short story with a message

Everyone who lives in South Africa knows the difference between a Hadeda Ibis and an African Fish Eagle. Both are beautiful in their own way although some would say that the Hadeda is only beautiful to its own mother, but be that as it may. The Hadeda with its long strong beak digs in the ground to find morsels to eat and especially fat, long earth worms. The Fish Eagle of course eats fish and it can often be seen flying over rivers or dams looking for lunch or supper. When it sees, with its eagle eye, an unsuspecting fish near the surface of the water it swoops down and grabs it with its claws before flying away to a suitable branch or rock to eat it.

Now birds being what they are often watch other birds and so one morning the young Hadeda said to his Mom “Why can’t I be like the Fish Eagle and catch a silvery fish, it looks good to eat and fun to swoop down and catch?” “Well my son the problem is that catching a fish is not as easy as it looks and especially if you are a Hadeda.” “But Mom I want to try, I am sure I can do it!” the Hadeda cried out in frustration. “Okay my boy” the Mother replied, “but be careful, the water is deep and dangerous.” And so the ambitious young Hadeda flew to the river to look for his first fish snack. Mother Hadeda followed at a distance to keep an eye on the event.

Soon the Hadeda, doing a rather sad imitation of an Eagle, flew over the river and with his rather poor eye sight thought he saw a fish just under the surface. Swooping down with a cry of joy he hit the water with a splash and if there had in fact been a fish there he missed it. He did not however miss the water and flapping his young wings he tried to lift himself out of the water with about as much success as he had in catching a fish. “Help!” he cried in that rather annoying Hadeda voice that gives him his name. “Help someone, I am drowning!” were his last words as he began to sink. From nearby an amazed Crocodile moved towards him quite surprised to see a Hadeda in the water and wondering what it would taste like.

This was not a good place for the young Hadeda to be, in fact it was a very bad place to be! His ambitious desire had by far outstripped his ability. But luck was on his side in the form of his Mother who proved to be much smarter than she sometimes looked, and especially to her son. Digging deep into her flying ability (surprising even herself) she did a good imitation of a Fish Eagle and swooping down into the water grabbed her son out of the jaws of a watery grave or perhaps even the jaws of the astonished crocodile who was left with his big mouth hanging open.

It was a wet, bedraggled Hadeda Ibis who told the story to his Dad who just returned from another day searching for food, something the young boy was going to learn is much more fun that trying to be an imitation Eagle.

But the story had a strange twist in the tale or is it the wing. The Hadeda Dad had also seen something that no one would believe if it did not come from such a reliable source. While his son had been toying with death, a young Fish Eagle had been trying an equally stupid and amazing thing. Down the river his Mother had been trying to teach him how to catch fish but after several missed attempts he decided to try for worms in the nearby pasture. Surely that will be much easier and look how many big, fat, juicy worms his Hadeda friend’s Dad was pulling out of the ground. His Mother knew that with his short hooked beak that would probably not work, but realizing that her son (somewhat like his Dad) had a rather stubborn streak, did not discourage him. So off he went to do some digging, with hope and joy flowing through his eagle veins. It did not take long for him to realize that this was not such a good idea. His beak was bleeding and his claws kept getting stuck in the grass. Then he heard the Hadeda nearby shout out a warning and fly off. He turned to see a rather large dog bounding through the field towards him. Now to an adult Fish Eagle a dog did not present much of a problem but to a youngster stuck in the grass is did. In desperation he flapped his young wings and tried to beat a hasty retreat, but his claws were firmly stuck and the strong roots of the grass would not allow an escape.

This time it was the concerned father who came to the rescue as he broke the swooping eagle world record to go to his son’s aid. Now the hungry dog fancied his chances against a young eagle stuck in the grass. The sight however of an angry eagle coming like an arrow out of the sky with claws barred and yelling an eagle war cry, was simply too much. He beat a hasty retreat and with some help from his dad the wiser young eagle flew home over the river where mom was catching supper. Fish seemed like a good option after all.

It was with battered and bruised egos that the two young friends sat in a tree that evening discussing the events of the day. They both seemed to have a new respect for the abilities of their parents, and a better understanding of what they were probably best at, given their own body shapes and abilities.Sometimes it is only experience that makes one wiser.

There must be a moral lurking somewhere in those stories. Perhaps we need to accept who and what we are and build on our talents rather than try to be someone or something we are not.. Or perhaps we also need to realize that when we mess up in a big way we often need someone to pull us out of that mess. You decide which you prefer!


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    • Johan Smulders profile imageAUTHOR

      Johan Smulders 

      5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      Thank you for the encouragement.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Birds at quite good at giving valuable lessons if we watch closely. This was wonderful, Johan, and I hope to see more of these kinds of stories.


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